Sunday, June 29, 2008

Si Jing Ye Takes 1st Place at the 2008 Bachauer Young Artists Competition

The Gold Medal (1st place) for the 2008 Gina Bachauer International Young Artists Competition went to Si Jing Ye (age 16) from China / USA with an additional cash prize of $8,000. What a stunning performer! For her final round of the competition she played Tchaikovsky's Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23. Si Jing is a true artist at the piano. Her performance of this work brought innovation and virtuosity to the music.

Si Jing played with a miraculous strength and power that almost seemed impossible from her small and delicate hands. She explored a full pallette of colors, dynamics, and sounds and produced a brilliant work of art that is worthy of great admiration. Truly a fine pianist and in every way worthy of the gold medal that she won. Congratulations, Si Jing Ye, on your great accomplishment and for enhancing the world of piano!

Kenric Tam Takes 2nd Place at the 2008 Bachauer Young Artists Competition

The silver medal (2nd place) for the 2008 Gina Bachauer International Young Artists Competition went to Kenric Tam (age 18) from the USA with an additional cash prize of $6,000. For the final round Kenric played Prokofiev's challenging and intense Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 16.

One of the things that stood out to me the most with Kenric's performance was his amazing power and endurance. This particular work is very tiring and draws constant energy from the performer. Kenric maintained a great power, strength, and energy throughout the entire performance. He gave a masterful performance that demonstrated his true abilities as an artist and as a fine pianist.

Jonathan Floril Takes 3rd place at the 2008 Bachauer Young Artist Competition

The bronze medal (3rd place) for the 2008 Gina Bachauer International Young Artists Competition went to Jonathan Floril (age 18) with an additional cash prize of $5,000. Jonathan is a powerful and artful performer. For his final round he played Beethoven's Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 52. I loved some of the fingering techniques he used while at the piano. He made the music look easy and simple with his quick-paced hands and stunningly accurate playing.

He brought out tones and colors to the music that I had not heard previously in this concerto. His trills were amazing and beautiful; and his range of dynamics left the mysteries of the piano completely exposed. Jonathan proved himself a brilliant artist, pianist, and musician.

Hin Yat Mozar Tsang Takes 4th place at the 2008 Bachauer Young Artists Competition

At the conclusion of the 2008 Gina Bachauer Young Artists Competition Mozar Tsang (age 15) from Hong Kong took home 4th place with a cash prize of $4,000.

Mozar Tsang was an absolutely delightful performer and person. For his final round he performed Shostakovich's Concerto No. 2 in F Major, Op. 102. This is a technically challenging piece and Mozar played it stunningly. He demonstrated a maturity for his art and had no reservations in taking risks with his interpretation and performance.

One of the great things about watching this young performer is seeing how he offers his emotions, feelings, and thoughts to be so prominently displayed to his audience. It is not easy to put one's emotions on display for such an audience, but Mozar has no reservations with putting his entire self into his music. He was truly an outstanding performer and fine artist.

Beatrice Rana Takes 6th Place in the 2008 Bachauer Young Artists Competition

Beatrice Rana (age 15) from Italy took 6th place in the 2008 Gina Bachauer International Young Artists Competition with a cash prize of $2,000. She performed Tchaikovsky's Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23. Throughout the entire performance she demonstrated a great technical prowess for the piano. She had a daring boldness to her interpretation and brought many innovations to the work. I was especially impressed with her octave runs. She executed them with great velocity, accuracy, but maintained great clarity and expression.

I especially enjoyed her wide range of tempo and dynamics. She painted a beautiful picture of emotion for her audience and drew them into her performance with ease. Her music was exciting, powerful, delicate, and beautiful.

Nansong Huang Takes 5th place at the 2008 Young Artist Competition

In the final Rounds of the 2008 Gina Bachauer International Young Artists Competition Nansong Huang performed Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43. This is a very uncommon work to perform for a competition and Nansong pulled it off extremely well.

His technique seemed impeccable. At times, his music seemed almost magical. When he played the popular 18th variation I was deeply moved by the interpretation and thoughtfulness he demonstrated. He was then able to transition immediately into the 19-20th variations with great momentum and force.

Nansong Huang played as though the piano were an extension of him. The piano was no longer an instrument to be played, but rather, became a part of the artist himself. What wonderful music this young artist can produce!

Nansong took 5th place at the conclusion of the competition with a cash prize of $3,000. I look forward to hearing him perform in the future.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Yen-Yu (Jenny) Chen Age 14 USA

A quote from Jenny Chen reads, "I was asked to play for people and I discovered how much fun it is to share my music with others." Jenny, as much fun as you have sharing your music with others, we have just as much, if not more fun listening to you play :)

Jenny gave a wonderful performance in this 2008 Gina Bachauer Young Artist Competition. She had fun with her music and yet took her performance and the compositions very seriously. I have to say that her fun and smiley performance was very refreshing due to the stressful nature of a competition.

Jenny (Yen-Yu) Chen's first piece for the 2nd round was Haydn's Sonata in C Major, Hob. XVI/50. She did some wonderful things with this piece and I especially enjoyed her interpretation and performance of the 2nd movement.

Her second piece was Chopin's Tarantella in A-flat Major, Op. 43, which proved her to have an excellent technique. This was followed by Chopin's Nocturne in C Minor, Op. 48, No. 1. Her Nocturne was gorgeous and really pulled me into it. She had a delicate ear for the sounds of the piano and adapted quickly and responsively to the piano on which she was performing (a Steinway Model D).

Her final piece was Prokofiev's Sonata No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 14. With this piece, she proved herself to be a wonderful artist.

Overall, her 2nd round proved to be an emotionally charged performance. She really connected with her audience and pulled them into the emotion and power of the music she was playing. Her performance, according to my watch, may have gone over her allotted 35 minutes, which may have been a major contributor to her not making it into the final rounds. The timing of competitions are extremely strict. But despite her not making it into the finals, I expect we will see many great things from Yen-Yu (Jenny) Chen in the future! What a wonderful musician she is!

Chengcheng Yao Age 16 China

I was immediately impressed with Chengcheng when I read a quote from her that reads, "I hope to perform in the places where classical music is not in popularization, and let everyone in the world began to love it." This is a noteworthy goal and I certainly believe that she can and will accomplish it!

Chengcheng played four very difficult pieces for the 2nd round of the Gina Bachauer 2008 Young Artists Competition. She began her program with Czerny's Variations on a Theme by Rode "La Ricordanza", Op. 33. I think this was an excellent piece to choose. Czerny is not all that common in performances, although EVERY pianist is familiar with his work because he wrote so many technique exersizes. Chengcheng has obviously fine-tuned her technique through the use of Czerny's music and this showed in this performance. She really had excellent technique and a wonderful expression throughout this work. Her runs were crisp and delightful.

Her second work was Ravel's Scarbo from Gaspard de le nuit. I really enjoyed her interpretation of the opening of this piece. Her dynamics were superb and she had a great balance and use of volume changes.

Chengcheng then played Chopin's Berceuse, Op. 57. This is a tricky piece to play. In the hands of a not-so-good performer, this piece can be disastrous. But Chengcheng Yao played this piece beautifully! One of the tricks to this piece is to keep the left hand expressive and meaningful despite the fact that it repeats the same measure for almost the entire work. Chengcheng did such a wonderful job of this that I could have listened to just her left hand and still come away touched by her music! I was deeply moved by her performance of Chopin's Berceuse.

Her final piece was Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 - another difficult work. She used some very interesting tempo changes throughout the piece and experimented with a variety of sounds and colors. It turned out wonderfully. I loved listening to her play this piece as well as all of her others.

Chengcheng, although you did not make it to the final round, you certainly gave a 1st class performance! I was impressed and in awe at the grandeur of your performance. Thank you for your beautiful music!

Song Choi Age 18 USA

For the second round of the 2008 Gina Bachauer Competition Song Choi performed 3 pieces. Her first was Sonata in D Major, K. 311 by Mozart. Song had excellent expression throughout this piece. I especially enjoyed her interpretation of the 2nd movement. She had a very light pedal throughout the 2nd movement that really enhanced the natural overtones and subtle nuances of the instrument.

Song Choi then played the first movement of Chopin's Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58. She brought out some interesting but effective rhythm changes and embellishments that I enjoyed. She also had a good balance between the dominant voice and bringing out secondary sounds and expressions.

Her final piece was Ravel's Ondine from Gaspard de la nuit. She did an excellent job of keeping the melody moving despite the changing hands, varied rhythms, and fluctuating accompanyment. Overall, I was very impressed with Song Choi's performance. She has an excellent ear for her music and I wish her the best in her coming career. She gave a wonderful performance.

And the 6 Finalists Are...

Last night I attended the evening session of the 2nd round of the Gina Bachauer 2008 Young Artists Competition. I heard four wonderful performances. Within about an hour of the last performance the jury announced the six finalists of the competition. I only had the chance to attend the performances of nine competitors, and none of the nine I attended made it to the final round. So I cannot give any commentary for the finalists, but hopefully I'll have something to say after the final round concludes this evening.

I'll post individual commentary about the performers I was impressed with last night in alternate posts; but here are the six finalists for the 2008 Gina Bachauer Young Artists Competition (not ranked in any order):
  • Nansong Huang (age 14 from China)
  • Jonathan Floril (age 18 from Spain)
  • Hin Yat Mozar Tsang (age 15 from Hong Kong)
  • Beatrice Rana (age 15 from Italy)
  • Si Jing Ye (age 16 from Chine/USA)
  • Kenric Tam (age 18 from USA)
To all of these great pianists - good luck at tonight's performance!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Day 1 of the Gina Bachauer Young Artists Competition 2008

I am posting this a couple of days late, but I was able to attend the evening session of the Bachauer Young Artists Competition on Tuesday. I had the opportunity to hear 5 talented musicians perform a variety of composers and works. I do not have any particular commentary on any of these performances, but here is what was performed:

Hao Tian (Tim) Zhang (Age 14 from Canada)
  • Johann Sebastian Bach - Prelude and Fugue in G Major
  • Ludwig Van Beethoven - Sonata in E-Flat Major, Op. 31, No. 3
  • Franz Liszt - Mephisto Waltz, No. 1

Marie Kyone (Age 18 from Japan)
  • Franz Josef Haydn - Sonata in E-flat Major, Hob. XVI/52
  • Olivier Messiaen - Regard de l'Esprit de joie

Joong-Hun Cho (Age 15 from Korea)
  • Frederic Chopin - Etude in F Major, Op. 10, No. 8
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Sonata in A Major, K. 331
  • Robert Schumann - Allegro in B Minor, Op. 8

Sara Vujadinovic (Age 17 Serbia)
  • Frederic Chopin - Impromptu in F-sharp Major, Op. 36
  • Claude Debussy - Masques, Feux d'artifice
  • Maurice Ravel - Alborada del gracioso

Asami Arai (Age 18 from Japan)
  • Franz Josef Haydn - Piano Sonata in A-flat Major, Hob.XVI/46
  • Frederic Chopin - Scherzo in E Major, OP. 54

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Beethoven Sonata Pathetique (Patetica) Op. 13 No. 8: II Adagio cantabile
Dedicated to My Sister, Jiselle

Beethoven's Sonata Pathetique is one of his most popular Sonatas. This recording is only the 2nd movement of the Sonata, Adagio cantabile. I discussed some about this Sonata in a previous post:

For those of you unfamiliar with this work, it is quite a popular Sonata of [Beethoven's]. The opening Grave section is a fine example of Beethoven's unique style and how he breaks away from the Classical genre of his day transitioning into the Romantic period. This work was written during his younger years but, in my opinion, is still full of the innovation that Beethoven produced throughout his lifetime. The second movement of this piece is a beautiful Adagio. Beethoven indicated Adagio cantabile for the second movement, where "cantabile" translates to something like "singable" or "song-like". I would describe cantabile as something you find yourself singing along to even though there are no lyrics. This can be a bit tricky in this piece because the melody is carried in the right hand along with a moving accompanyment.

This recording is lovingly dedicated to my sister, Jiselle, who doesn't really keep up with my music much, so I needed to dedicate something to her just to get her to listen ;) Just kidding (kind of). Jiselle and I grew up as great friends. We spent most of our childhood playing together - usually her bossing me around. I didn't mind so much though, because her friendship meant a lot to me. We still keep in close contact and my family misses having her close by; but we cherish the times that we have had together and look forward to her visits with great anticipation. Jiselle, I love you very much and I hope that your life will bring you the clarity, peace and serenity that this music so represents.

I have always loved this Sonata, more specifically this second movement. I studied the other movements of this Sonata back when I was in high school and haven't done much with it since. Hopefully one of these days I'll get around to relearning the other two movements so that I can post those on my Lisztonian site as well. Until then, I hope you will enjoy the second movement only of Beethoven's popular Sonata Op. 13 No. 8 - Pathetique! You can find this recording on my Lisztonian website or by clicking here. You may also subscribe to my free podcast on iTunes which will keep you updated when new recordings become available. You may also use the embedded player below to listen to this selection online. Thank you for your support!

Ching Toa Aristo Sham Wins the 2008 Junior Bachauer Competition

In my previous post I mentioned a performance by Ching-Toa Aristo Sham. This evening I attended the final rounds of the 2008 Junior Bachauer competition, and to no surprise this talented young artist won 1st prize in the competition.

The final round was sold out to a good sized crowd. Unfortunately, the competition was delayed by three hours due to a power failure and the entire competition had to be moved to an alternate location.

There were six finalists (in order of performance and left to right in the picture):
  • Qi Xu - 13 years old from China
  • George Li - 12 years old from USA
  • Jan Lisiecki - 13 years old from Canada
  • Ching Toa Aristo Sham - 12 years old from Hong Kong
  • Yi Jia Wang - 12 years old from China
  • Anna Han - 12 years old from USA
They all gave amazing performances - even despite the late hour (it was almost midnight when the performances concluded). George Li took second place and Ching Toa took first place. I was so impressed with all of their performances.
The final round consisted of concerti with piano accompanyment taking the place of the orchestra. I was very impressed with George Li's Concerto No. 2 by Saint-Saens. It was exciting and he definitely has a great stage presence about it. Ching Toa's Concerto No. 1 by Beethoven was amazing. He has a subtle power to his music that amplifies the performance ten-fold. His technique was crisp and his musicianship was beyond his years.

What an amazing experience it has been to participate in the Gina Bachauer Junior competition. I am looking forward to the Young Artist competition that begins next week. Again, for those of you in the Salt Lake area, I encourage you to attend. You will be amazed and astounded at the great music produced by such young artists.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ching Toa Aristo Sham Gives a Stunning Performance

Yesterday I decided to take my daughter to the the Gina Bachauer competition. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity for her to attend a piano recital since each competitor's performance in this first round is only 25 minutes and she is still so young that something much longer would be hard for her to sit through.

We arrived just before the final competitor in the afternoon session. The competitor was 12-year old Ching Toa Aristo Sham from Hong Kong. He played some Bach, Haydn, and Mendelsshon. His performance was one of the most amazing musical experiences I've had. He played with a musical maturity that most college-level musicians don't have (myself included). Typically a 12-year old musician, even the talented ones, seem to be copying another musician's style and artistry; but this young artist seemed truly that - an artist - and not just an imitator. Don't get me wrong - all of the other young competitors are amazing and what they will surely become is wonderful to think about. I am simply stating that I felt as though Ching-Tao was ages ahead of the typical artist of his age (even among the prodigious competitors drawn to the Bachauer).

I look forward to the great music he will produce in the future!

So far, the Bachauer has been a most rewarding experience - as it always is. If you live near the Salt Lake area, there is still over one week of competition left, so be sure to get some tickets and attend!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Schubert Impromptu Op. 90 No 4 in E-flat

So I have finally gotten around to recording another of Schubert's four Impromptus in Op. 90. I previously had recorded No. 4 in A-flat, so here is No. 2 in E-flat. I hope to record No. 1 and No. 3 in the near future.

This is a fun Impromptu to play. I especially enjoy playing measures 25-34 as well as measures 135 through the end of that section. I first studied this piece several years ago and didn't really play it again until recently. Back when I was first learning it my daughter used to run into the room to dance when I would play the closing coda section. She loved dancing to it! When I picked it up again just a week or two ago my youngest son started dancing to the very same section. I found it interesting that they were both drawn to the exact same part of the music. So when you listen to the last 30 or so measures of this recording you can imagine a little child dancing along with it :)

I am dedicating this recording to my little sister, Nessa. She learned this piece a while back and now when I play it I can't help but think of her. I am priveleged to be her sibling.

To listen to this recording you may visit my Lisztonian website or click here to go directly to the download page. You may also subscribe to all of my recordings (including this one) through my free iTunes podcast. That is the best way to be automatically updated when I release a new recording. For convenience, you may also use the embedded media player below.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Talented Young Artist - Reta

Tonight my family had the opportunity to attend the solo recital for a young lady in our neighborhood, Reta (I'll omit her last name for privacy reasons). She played a portion of Mendelssohn's popular Song Without Words as well as Beethoven's entire Sonata No. 8 (Opus 13) - Pathetique (or Patetica). She played the Mendelssohn beautifully and had a great array of dynamics throughout the piece.

Her Beethoven Sonata was superb. For those of you unfamiliar with this work, it is quite a popular Sonata of his. The opening Grave section is a fine example of Beethoven's unique style and how he breaks away from the Classical genre of his day transitioning into the Romantic period. This work was written during his younger years but, in my opinion, is still full of the innovation that Beethoven produced throughout his lifetime. The second movement of this piece is a beautiful Adagio. Beethoven indicated Adagio cantabile for the second movement, where "cantabile" translates to something like "singable" or "song-like". I would describe cantabile as something you find yourself singing along to even though there are no lyrics. This can be a bit tricky in this piece because the melody is carried in the right hand along with a moving accompanyment. Reta did a wonderful job of bringing out this "song-like" melody. As it happens, I was already planning on releasing a recording of this second movement on my Lisztonian website within the next 2-3 weeks - so stay tuned for that.

I appreciated the fact that the recital was treated informally, so we were able to bring our children. I always love opportunities to expose my children to good music. It is so encouraging to attend performances of young artists because it reminds me that classical piano music is still alive and well!

Reta, you did an excellent job! Brava! You played beautifully and I look forward to hearing your music again in the future.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The 2008 Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition

The time has arrived! It is June and in Utah that means it is piano month! This is all thanks to Dr. Paul Pollei who founded the Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation many years ago. It has since become one of the world's finest international piano competitions. I have a deep love and respect for Dr. Pollei. I studied piano with him for several years through college and have considered him a dear friend ever since. I am honestly not quite sure why he ever even let me into his office to study with him, but he did!

This year's competition will actually combine both the Junior and Young Artists competitions and do them back-to-back. What a treat :) I've already purchased my festival tickets. If you have never had the opportunity to attend a piano competition, then you certainly should consider this one. It is amazing to see the talent in these youth. They come from all over the world to participate in this event.

I always purchase festival tickets, which allows me to come and go throughout the competitions as much as my work/family schedule will allow. This year I will be home with the kids during the first week of the competition while my wife is out of town (she is a leader for a youth camp group). So my tickets for the first week are open to anybody who would like to attend! If you are interested in attending, then I encourage you to support the competition and purchase some tickets. However, if purchasing the tickets is the difference between going and not going, then JUST USE MINE! It will be worth every effort to attend and you will not regret it.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Poet Speaks
Dedicated to Judy Stockett

Schumann's Opus 15 is one of his popular and well-known works. It consists of 13 short pieces composed about various "scenes of childhood" (thus the title - Kinderszenen - Scenes of Childhood). This particular "scene" is the final scene in the work and is titled "Der Dichter spricht" or "The Poet Speaks." As many of my friends and family know, I love poetry. I am not a poet, but am an appreciator of this fine literary art. In fact, I read poetry to my children almost every night before I read them their bedtime stories and put them to bed. Good poetry inspires the soul - as does good music. For this reason, I particularly love this work because it is a musical interpretation of a poet speaking.

This recording is dedicated to a wonderful woman, Judy Stockett and her dear husband, Jerry Stockett. I have known this couple only a few years but have grown a deep admiration for the both of them. We are both members of the same faith and so we attend church meetings together regularly. Over these last couple of years Judy and Jerry have been an inspiration to me during times of trial and difficulty. They are the epitome of optimism and joy. I have especially enjoyed having several opportunities to hear Judy speak of her personal experiences and am uplifted by her natural love for life, hope, and the "brighter side" of everything.

Judy, along with this recording, there is a poem that makes me think of you. This fits in perfectly with this musical work by Schumann, and is a great representation of how my family feels towards the great person you are:

Worth While
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1855 - 1919)

It is easy enough to be pleasant, When life flows by like a song,
but the man worth while is one who will smile, When everything goes dead wrong.
For the test of the heart is trouble, And it always comes with the years,
And the smile that is worth the praises of earth Is the smile that shines through tears.
It is easy enough to be prudent, When nothing tempts you to stray,
When without or within no voice of sin Is luring your soul away;
But it's only a negative virtue Until it is tried by fire,
And the life that is worth the honor on earth Is the one that resists desire.
By the cynic, the safe, the fallen, Who had no strength for the strife,
The world's highway is cumbered to-day; They make up the sum of life.
But the virtue that conquers passion, And the sorrow that hides in a smile,
It is these that are worth the homage on earth For we find them but once in a while.

Judy, you are an inspiration to us all.
This recording may be downloaded here or through my iTunes podcast. You may also use the embedded player below to listen to this recording.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Donation List

I have now added a page on my Lisztonian site to commemorate all those who have donated towards my future piano. This page will also track how far I am in my goal towards buying a Steinway model B piano! So be sure to check out the list of doners!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Pachelbel's Canon in D Minor

In D what? Did you say in D Minor?

For all of the musicians out there who are familiar with Pachelbel's famous Canon in D you will immediately do a double-take at the title of this post! Why? Because this famous chamber work was written in the key of D Major and not in the key of D Minor. However, this very informal recording is an arrangement in the key of D Minor.

I recorded this just last night as a last-minute joke for work. One of our company's products uses an arrangment of Pachelbel's Canon in D (major) and the title was incorrectly displayed as "Canon in D Minor." So I sent out an email to a few of the people at work with a link to this recording and suggested that instead of correcting the text, we could simply replace the sound track with this recording. I'm sure Pachelbel wouldn't mind!

So here you have a very dreary-feeling version of Pachelbel's famous Canon in D, played in the minor key. If you are not familiar with this piece, it is an extremely popular work for weddings. My co-workers joked that this could be the processional music played at a divorce court instead.

Please forgive the piano, I didn't have time to tune it before recording like I usually try to do. Also, please look past the many imperfections -- keep in mind that I was converting this to minor as I was playing... it wasn't arranged or prepared in advance. Thus there are several imperfections. Oh well, it was just intended to be a joke anyhow :) I hope you enjoy it!

You can download the WMA by right-clicking this link and selecting "Save Target As..." or the MP3 by right-clicking this link and selecting "Save Target As..." or you can listen to it through the embedded player provided below.